Dead Chickens and Hammams

I try to go for lunch on my own but get VERY lost in the medina. I’m trapped inside the market. I keep trying to walk straight in one direction, hoping it’ll take me to an exit, any exit, but of course there is no such thing as straight in this labyrinth. I find my way out of the fabrics section, but now I’m lost in shoes. When I escape shoes I’m surrounded by plates and tagines. Then rugs. I round a corner and am suffocated by the smell of raw meat and fish. Now I’m in a hallway lined with thousands of metal lamps. Did I die? Is this hell?

I’m getting hangry, and the constant “excuse me! Hello! Come inside!” calls aren’t helping. I can’t say it gets any easier to deal with that. It makes me so awkward. I can’t take the time to stop and say no thanks to every human who calls after me, but I feel like an asshole when I keep my head down and ignore them. When you’re walking with another person you’re often in conversation and it’s easier to ignore. Alone, you’re nothing but a damn target. Doesn’t help when you’re aware of how lost you are, either.

By some miracle I escape. I’ve lost about an hour of my life in there that I’ll never get back. Which city official should I contact to suggest they acquire some emergency exit signs?

I’m now starving and having trouble finding an affordable restaurant. I make a rookie mistake and sit on the very edge of an available patio along a busy street. Never ever do this. The entire time I’m eating I have people trying to sell me things, kids begging (one even slowly reached to take my shawarma out of my hands guys, this is real life) and most unfortunately and life scarring-ly, a man carrying a handful of dead chickens grazes my leg as he walks past. Like, WITH the dead chickens. It’s not my day.

Lesson learned, no more patios. Ever.

I meet up with Nordine again (the guy who let me chill at his Riad all day yesterday) and we go to meet up with more of his friends. I now have more Moroccan friends in Morocco, than Spanish friends in Spain, and maybe even Canadian friends in Canada.

We go his friends new house in the medina. They’re a young married couple, so I’m picturing like a standard European/American/whatever apartment…but am very wrong. They live in a 3 story Riad. All open concept with tons of sunlight and fresh air, a guest room, two bathrooms, and a rooftop terrace where we spend the afternoon building a little bamboo sun shelter. Okay, so by “building” I mean “watching as they build”. I don’t do a lot to help, though I swear I offer!

I later learn how much they pay for rent, and I won’t be tacky by listing it here, but all I can say is that I’m probably moving to Morocco now.

Down in the street below we hear screaming, and look out over the edge to investigate. There’s a group of kids laughing while this other kid is on the ground absolutely moaning about whatever they’d just done to him. At first I’m concerned but it becomes pretty clear the kid is fine and just being dramatic as hell. Some of them notice us on the roof and start waving. The kid that’s crying looks up, starts yelling something at us in Arabic, sees me, and immediately changes it to “fuck you!!!” We all die of laughter. Except for this poor, angry little guy, but I swear he’s just fine.

We leave their place, Nordine goes back to work, and I decide it’s time to hit a hammam. This was something recommended to me by absolutely everyone who has already visited Morocco, and I’ve read a couple articles about it. The articles made it somewhat more confusing, though. For example, one article underlines the need to wear a bathing suit. They say some hammams will allow you to go topless, but no where in Morocco is it acceptable to be totally naked. Okay noted. But then the next article talks about the nudity everywhere and how it’s normal. You are not allowed to wear clothes inside. Which is it??!?!

I bring a bathing suit just in case. There are also two choices: traditional hammams and spa hammams. The spa ones are obviously more geared towards tourists, but wealthy locals use them too. These can cost upwards of 150Mdh (14€, $20cad), while the public hammams are only 10mdh (1€, $1) for entry. I clearly opt for the traditional public hammam, and not just because I’m poor, but because that’s a reaaaaal hammam. It’s actually a Turkish thing originally, but embraced full force here in Morocco.

There are separate entrances for men and women, but as far as I can see, they’re unmarked. I luck out big time when I over hear a man giving a tour and identifying which door is which just as I walk by. I had my money on the wrong door and was heading for the men’s so that guide saved me a lot of embarrassment.

Once inside I approach a woman sitting next to a small pile of different shower goods. I explain it’s my first time, with the hope that she’ll offer me a little guidance. I’m not sure if it’s my crappy French or what, but she doesn’t help. Instead, she is inconvenienced by my existence and tries to rip me off. I buy this special olive shampoo that I read about, a little rhassoul (exfoliant) and an exfoliating glove. She quotes me 40mdh. Nordine had literally just told me all bath products should be 1mdh each and entry more than 10. So that makes 13. Not 40. I count it out with her and we get to 15, because apparently soap and rhassoul are 2. Whatever, fine.

Then it’s 5 for them to keep my bag. That I don’t try to argue at all. Please like me and take care of my things.

She points me across the room and tells me to get naked. No dividers or curtains, just out in the open; literally in the  entrance. If I almost walked into the men’s side who’s to say the reverse couldn’t happen? I do as I’m told but confirm that I am supposed to get TOTALLY naked, right? The girl from the internet said that’s frowned upon. No bathing suit? Okay lady. Here I am. Naked. While you stand next to me and collect my things, covered from head to toe in your hijab and dress. She gives me some plastic buckets (two large and one small) and points me further inside to the actual steam room.

I’ve been told hammams are similar to onsens in Japan, where they are used as a way to relax and get clean, but also to socialize. I head inside and say “bonjour” to a bunch of other naked women, and no one responds. Okay cool sweet I guess I’m not supposed to talk, now I don’t know. The internet didn’t prepare me for this!

I walk to the very back where I find my own little shower corner. Already sweating to death, I fill one bucket with hot water and the other with cold. I use the smallest plastic bucket to take a bit from each of the big ones to achieve a bearable temperature, and pour it over my head. I open the special olive shampoo, called beldi, which looks like thick black jello, and is wrapped in newspaper. It’s suuuuper sudsy, which I wasn’t expecting. Next I get out my exfoliating glove and the rhassoul. This is also sold to me inside a piece of newspaper, but looks like little pieces of sand rock or something.

The internet told me that when I started exfoliating, someone would come offer to scrub my back, and that this is normal, and to accept, then reciprocate the offer.

Well guess what? No one in this friendly hammam offers, and im not about to ask. Part of me is okay with this because I don’t really want strangers touching my naked body, but part of me is sad because now it’s like my hammam experience isn’t complete. Did it even really happen if a naked stranger didn’t scrub my back?

This special shampoo doesn’t seem to be doing any wonders for my hair. It feels hella dry when I wash it out, but I guess we’ll see.

My towel is pretty damp from sitting in the steam room with me. Maybe I was supposed to leave it outside? I’ve given up on trying to do the proper hammam things and am now just focused on surviving. Is there a shower where I can rinse off? Where do I dry my hair? Is there a mirror so I can wipe off my melting mascara?

Doesn’t look like it.

I get dressed slowly in the hopes that my hair will do some drying in the process. I’m still sweating to death and it doesn’t feel fair to my new clothes to put them on when I’m still basically wet. Luckily all my clothes are pretty gross at this stage of my trip, so it doesn’t matter.
There is one woman sitting next to me, wearing a full black dress and niquab, chillin, as I’m naked and changing. I don’t think she was in the steam room when I was, and it doesn’t look like she has plans to get naked so I’m not really sure what she’s doing here. Maybe she’s come for the warm and welcoming environment.

I walk out slowly, making sure to leave 5dhm for reception as a tip (the Internet told me to), while kinda hoping they’ll stop me if I’m doing something wrong… like leaving the hammam with wet hair. I haven’t noticed anyone walking around with wet hair since I’ve arrived, and apparently some people go to the hammam like 3 times a week. Where do they dry their hair???? I feel like I’ll probably attract more unwanted attention walking around like this than I do with my normal, dry blonde hair.

I’m half right. As soon as I walk out the door, a boy who’s probably 15 starts asking me if I liked the hammam, if I like Morocco, where I’m from etc etc. He’s just left the hammam too, is adorable, and is just a friendly, chatty kid. He walks me almost all the way back to my hostel, and almost no one asks me to enter their shop our shouts anything after me. Bonus.

I have no photos of the hammam. Clearly couldn’t walk around with a camera photographing naked people, so I just turned to Google to find something I could use as an example. The results are LAUGHABLE. Seriously, go google hammam, and then forget what you’ve seen, because what I did was nothing like that. Just a big tiled room with plastic buckets. Not a spa. The internet makes it seem so glamorous. Or maybe I went somewhere totally sketchy. Who knows.

Back at the hostel I take another shower. I already feel “clean” but am absolutely over heating so I take a follow up cold shower just to cool off. I only used half the olive shampoo at the hammam and kept the other half to bring home, but I think I hate it. My hair looks so dry!!!

I head over to the Riad to meet the squad for dinner. I’m starving. When asked about my hammam experience I talk about the pros and cons, but when I bring up the olive shampoo they crack up. Now they’re touching my hair. What is happening. Oh. Turns out that it’s a special Moroccan BODY SOAP. Not shampoo. Ugh. I did the hammam all wrong. I want a do-over!

I assumed we were all going out for dinner together but I am pleasantly surprised with a home made tagine. It’s a chill night and we don’t go out anywhere because we must rest up for tomorrow; mon anniversaire! They drive me home because it’s dark. While I feel safe here, and stand by the fact that everyone over exaggerates the dangers of Morocco, I didn’t love walking over to the Riad alone earlier tonight. What I just can’t wrap my head around is why people get a kick out of making me/other women feel uncomfortable. Like they can’t possibly think I’m actually going to stop and chat. I can’t imagine they believe I’m going to take it as a nice compliment when they cat call, or tell me to smile. I just don’t see what the aim is. Would genuinely love the opportunity to ask someone one time, but then I’d be stopping to talk and that’s a hard no.

Hitch Hiking to Fes

It’s an early morning, as Fes is a 5 hour journey and that’s not including the time we’ll spend on the side of the road trying to catch a ride. I’ve always loved hitch hiking (which I did frequently when I lived in Tasmania), but would never have considered doing this alone in Morocco; having Cesc with me makes it feel much safer. We meet outside Najoua and Amin’s hotel at 8am to say our goodbyes, and we go on our way. I am beyond thankful I met them. They taught me so much about Moroccan culture and we had so much fun together. I encourage them to come to Barcelona for a visit!

Moroccan people have been so welcoming and friendly since the moment my plane landed, so I can’t imagine we’ll have much trouble finding someone who will pick us up. We grab a quick breakfast for 10dhm (free) each, and start down the road.

We have a littttttle trouble getting picked up. People don’t even stop to ask us where we’re going; they just offer a friendly wave and drive straight on. We start to think that maybe we should head back to Chaouen to catch a bus…but just as we decide to go back, a man pulls over and offers to drive us 10km in the right direction. He believes we’ll have more luck finding a ride to Fes from the location where he can drop us. Perfect, let’s do it.

We’ve started greeting people with a wave and then, “English, Francais, Español?” and letting them decide which language they’d prefer to speak. It’s fun, because Cesc takes over when it’s Spanish, I do the talking when it’s French, and if it’s English we can both converse. The men who pick us up only speak a little bit of Spanish, but it hardly matters because they’re blaring Arabic beats for the whole trip. Lovin’ it.

Once in the smaller “town”, which I would argue is actually just a gas station, we get back to thumbing on the side of the road. Here, cars pass more frequently, but our rejection rate is just as high. We see one young western couple with an empty car drive right by us without even making eye contact. Not even acknowledged. At least locals are polite enough to offer an apologetic wave. Whatever. Rude.

This doesn’t seem to be in the cards for us. I apologize because admittedly, hitch hiking was my idea and it’s failing miserably. We start walking back to the gas station in the hopes of finding a taxi driver with whom we can haggle for a good price to Fes or somewhere nearby with a bus station. On a last attempt, I throw up my thumb for a passing car, and it actually pulls over. It’s a young Spanish couple and we ask how far they can take us…turns out they are also headed to Fes. A damn miracle! We hop in the back seat with enthusiasm.

Obviously they’re lovely, and though I’d love to practice my Spanish, the three of them all speak a little too quickly for me to understand and/or be able to contribute much to the conversation. We end up speaking a lot in English. They discover they all have friends in common, which just further confirms for me how small the world is. Or I guess in this case, how small Spain is. New tally of Spanish friends in Morocco: 3, Spain: 0

Halfway to Fes we get pulled over for speeding. Apparently we were going 72 in a 60 zone. In Canada that means nothing, but okay. The ticket is only 150dhm (14€, $20cad) which sucks, but is hilarious compared to the $100+ you’d pay back home.

I can feel the heat creeping up as the day goes on and we move further South. The heat thus far has been nothing like I expected for Morocco. Honestly I’ve even been a little cold the last 3 nights, and only packed one light sweater. I had it in my head that I’d be overheating from start to finish, but the weather has been in the low 20s since I arrived. The North is, as I should have realized, a similar climate to that of southern Spain. Now, however, I’m going to be dealing with 30+ in Fes, Marrakesh, and of course when I visit the desert.

We arrive to Fes safe and sound. The Spanish couple have a hostel booked so we tag along to see if there are any open rooms. All the dorms are taken and they only have one double room left, which is slightly more expensive but we bargain the price down from 300 to 200mdh (18€, $26cad) so about 9€ each. Not ideal, as the dorms were 7€, but not terrible. Sure, it’s a little strange to share a bed with a boy I don’t know that well, but Cesc is chill af and it’s nice to have one room where we can safely leave all our stuff.

We are greeted with mint tea, take a few minutes to relax, and then head out into the medina. I can’t get enough of these medinas! It becomes clear that the shop keepers are a little more pushy here than they have been in Tangier and Chaouen. And by a little I mean a lot. The medina is also significantly larger than the other two I’ve seen, and I laugh when I think about “getting lost” in the media of Tangier. That was small fries compared to this.

After eating so many restaurant meals (when I vowed I’d stick to street food), we make a point of eating snacks along our way as we explore. We try lots of cool new things, and I don’t know the name of any of them, but I’ll say spicy chickpeas, fish samosa-like snacks, something like a chicken croquette, and another snail soup (or snail snoop, as I keep accidentally calling it). There are tons of hand made crafts in Fes, from rugs and leather goods to tagines and ornate metal lamps. Some of the shop displays are just fantastic, like endless hallways of ceramics or walls and ceilings filled with shoes.

I buy a pair of super rad Moroccan leather slippers, and try my hand at bargaining. I get the price down from 100 to 80. Not my best work but it always take me a while to get into the headspace of haggling. 8€ for a pair of leather shoes is nothing to complain about anyway. Just when I thought there couldn’t possible have squeezed any more shoes along the walls, the shop keeper climbs a ladder in the back corner and slips up into the attic at lightening speed. I can’t imagine how many more hundreds, potentially thousands of shoes they have here. Every size, every style, every colour, and then more.

Shoes shoes shoes and more shoes

As the sun starts to set and our feet have grown tired, we make our way back to the hostel. We’re “lost”, but manage to sort ourselves out eventually. Mostly because we ask people.
It’s a lazy evening but we go out once more for a mint tea and light dinner. We go to a street food stall which turns out to have some upstairs seating on a rooftop patio over looking the streets. It also turns out they have beer. Bonus.

We share some grilled turkey and beef skewers that come with bread (of course) and lentil dip. Do I really have to tell you that everything is delicious?

Chefchaouen, The Blue City

I thought I was alone in my hostel, but I was wrong. I woke up to a cat curled up by my feet, and again, later, to him curled up by my neck. Not a huuuuuge fan of a strange hostel cat being near me and getting its cat hair everywhere…but it doesn’t look diseased or itchy or anything, so that’s a plus. I go online to book a hostel in Chefchaouen to find they’re all full or super expensive. Just grand. After a little panicking (I legit have to go there I can’t just skip it. It looks so beautiful!!) I give in and pay for a hotel. Some go up to 1100Mdh (102€, $145cad), but I find one for 200mdh (19€, $26cad) per night. I get the vibe it’s a little far out from the medina, but that’s okay, because it’s not 1100Mdh.

Now I just have to sort out how to get there. I’ve been told there are just two options, either a bus or a taxi. The taxis are apparently only slightly more expensive and much more comfortable. Of course, I don’t get the whole taxi to myself, I’m going to have to share it with like 7 people, but it still sounds superior to the bus.
Travel before the invention of the internet sounds much more romantic and rewarding, more adventurous, more real…but madre mia I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to get around without Google to answer all my questions.
I go out, further from the centre than I did yesterday, and find a bustling square with taxis, restaurants, shops, ATMs, and of course, street food stalls. Yassssss. I see multiple stalls selling this bread thing so I pick one and have a go at ordering. I am given the choice between cream cheese, Nutella, or peanut butter spreads and I go with cream cheese. I am charged 6mdh (0.60€, $0.80cad) for a huge piece, which is wrapped in brown paper and handed to me for takeaway. It’s kinda like folded naan bread stuffed with cream cheese. I’ve just realized I’m not very good at describing food, so I’ll stop, but trust me when I say it’s good. Next I check out of my quiet little hostel and get on my way.

I take a “petit taxi” (which are just normal sized taxis so I don’t know why they’re called “petit”) to the bus station. I can’t see the taxi stand so for a minute I consider forgetting it and trying to maneuver the madness of shouting bus drivers, vendors, and travellers. It’s hectic as hell, so I just ask someone where I can find a taxi to Chefchaouen, or ‘chaouen as all the cool locals, and now I, call it. He points me over to a slightly less hectic area where I can hear a man shouting “chaouenchaouenchaouenchaouen” very loud and very fast. I ask for the price, am told 80mdh (8€, $10cad), and get in to a 7 seater van. I suppose these are the “grand taxis”.

I meet a super nice couple from Meknes (another Moroccan city) who tell me they paid the same price for the trip which is comforting. 80 doesn’t seem expensive for a 2 hour drive, but I still don’t want to be paying tourist prices if I can help it. We wait, as the taxi won’t leave until every seat is filled; there is no time table, it just depends on demand.

A Spanish guy from Valencia joins our van and I practice a bit of Spanish on him. I can’t do much more than the standard “What is your name? Where are you from?”, and to be honest I don’t even want to be practice Spanish right now because I am mixing it with French when I speak to locals and end up just butchering every language I try to speak in the process. I can only handle one at a time. We all chat the whole ride which makes the time fly by quickly. I now have more Spanish friends in Morocco than I do in Spain. Tally: 1.

When we arrive in Chefchaouen I head up to my hostel. My new pals go in search of accommodation, and I’m feeling great about having booked something in advance. I’m not sure they’ll have any luck. We exchange numbers to meet up later.

The owners of my place made a note on their page about how easy it is to get to from the centre, so I just grab a petit taxi for 15mdh (1.40€, $2cad). The driver is friendly and takes me far up the mountain, which begins to feel way too far out of the city. He drives me to the end of a dirt road and tells me if I just walk up the hill and to the left I’ll find it. Mmmmmk. Not a fan, but sure.

Well, surprise, I don’t find it, and have to ask a group of men for directions. The father speaks a bit of French and sends his son, who is about my age but speaks no French (or English or Spanish) to help me find it. He’s really nice (though we can’t actually communicate) but I’m feeling extremely frustrated by how far away the taxi driver left me. Did he ever know where this hostel was in the first place? I’m in what feels like the middle of God damn no where. No roads, im just walking down a path following some kid I can’t ask any questions. I don’t feel scared per se, but I am aware that this could easily turn into a sketchy situation for me. I don’t have much of an escape route unless I roll down the mountain.

We walk for 10 minutes before we run into another man who speaks French and directs us back the other way. Now the three of us are walking together and they’re asking me lots of questions about my life but all I want to know is where my damn hostel is. We finally arrive and I offer them some dirham for their troubles. They both refuse which is very sweet considering neither of them asked for this little promenade in the first place.

The owner of the hostel comes down, and seems genuinely confused about how I got so lost. Well sir, maybe it’s because there is no road to your building, and only a small painted title on the door. No one knows this exists. He shows me to my room and apologizes because the bathroom light isn’t working. I am more concerned about the fact that I’m a 15 minute walk from the city, uphill all the way home.

I connect to the wifi and get in touch with my friends to see how they’ve fared in their search. Both the couple (Najoua and Amin) and the Spanish guy (Cesc, short for Francesc) have found accommodation for LESS than what I am paying here to live on the top of Mount Everest. Almost half the price I’m paying, actually, and they believe it’ll be easy for me to find a place too. Yeah, I think I’ll go, thanks. I haven’t even paid for this room yet so I’m still a free bird. My friends find a hotel down the street from theirs, send me a photo of a room, and I walk out the door. I have to walk for 5 minutes before I can even find a taxi. I don’t know who would ever choose to open a hostel at this location.

Arriving at my new place brings me peace. It’s in the medina which is literally all that matters to me. Even if the bed wash trash I’d sleep there, but it’s not, it’s a room that could sleep 3 people that I get all to myself, and it’s 120mdh (12€, $16cad) a night. I’m never leaving.

I drop my stuff in the room and we all go for lunch. I am high on the feeling of relief and success, finally at a good location, with great people, in this beautiful city.

We find a hole-in-the-wall restaurant where we let Najoua and Amin order for us all. A giant plate of assorted fish is placed in the middle of the table with bread, rice, and sauces on the side. In Morocco we eat with our hands, which is always great fun but a small struggle for me because it’s rude to use your left hand, and I am left handed.

We’re not given plates or anything, just paper place mats, and I’m happy I snap both a before and after shot of the mess we make while eating. It’s such good fun! 50mdh (5€, $6.50cad) for each of us to eat this feast.

Next, we wander through the medina. Chaouen is famous for being a blue city. Literally everything is blue. I thought Tangier was blue but this is next level. It’s picture perfect; the kind where no picture can actually explain how beautiful everything is, but you must take 834726 photos to try and capture it anyway. Around every corner there’s a photo op. This also makes Chaouen infinitely more touristy than Tangier, which I never love, but can entirely understand. So. Damn. Pretty!

I see some female tourists running around in tank tops, crop tops, short skirts and shorts, as if they did absolutely 0 research before arriving here. I ask Najoua and Amin about it and they say it’s normal. Some people will be offended but it’s not a big deal. Happens all the time, especially in the bigger cities (though Chaouen is not a big city). I think I am more offended by it than they are. I just feel like it’s so disrespectful to have no regard for the culture and customs, but whatever. Do you.

As it starts to get dark I am ever thankful for moving out of that first hostel. It would definitely not be safe for me to walk up there on my own at night, which would mean I’d have to leave now. At 20:00. No thanks.

We pass a street food stall with a man selling snail soup. Yes. Snails. I find this extra hilarious because I just had a conversation with one of my students, who is 11, about eating foreign food. She was quite reserved in what she was willing to try, and I told her I’ll eat anything. She asked me what I would do if I was offered snails or something weird in Morocco, and I assured her I would happily try them. Well here I am! I order a small bowl for 5mdh (0.50€, $0.66cad). It’s legit delicious, and again, fun to eat. You pick the snails out of their shells with a toothpick, toss the empties into a big collective pile on the stall, and then drink the leftover soup from the small clay bowl. Of course, I send a photo to my student.

We all head back to the couple’s hotel where they have a great little kitchen and terrace. Najoua makes us mint tea, and lays out some Moroccan pastries that she picked up on our way home. We sit outside on their terrace over looking the city, under the stars, listening to people bustling about below us. The call to prayer begins and sounds so beautiful. It echoes throughout the whole city and I’m caught in a moment that couldn’t be more perfect.

Take me there!


Morocco: Arrival Pt.2

I think I just got way too excited to be blogging again, and posted about my day when it was only 30% finished. Here’s what else I did in Tangier:

It’s still too early for check-in but I maneuver my way through the medina to find my hostel. A “medina” is the term for an old Arab or non-European quarter of a North African town, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I took that straight from Google.

The hostel is charming and beautiful but utterly silent, even though it’s now almost noon. A French woman comes to check me in and identifies me as Canadian, despite by British passport, based on my poor French accent. Awesome.

I feel much more at ease now that I can leave my important things in the hostel and explore without all of my cash, passport, and livelihood attached to me.

I bring a small black and white map, but allow myself to get lost in the medina, knowing that this would be hard even for someone with an inner compass.
I take random turns through small winding streets, following white walls and doors painted in bold shades of blue. Shops are beginning to open up and I am encouraged to enter what must be 100 places over the duration of my walk, but never do. As you can imagine, cat calling is also extremely common here, as it is in many other countries where women are not valued as equals. Hell, it still happens in Canada. I keep my bag close and eyes averted, trying my best to avoid any unwanted attention – trying to stay alert while I adjust to this new environment, running the words of warning people shared before my departure, again and again through my head.

Don’t get me wrong though, I still enjoy every moment; every new corner, every blue door, every time I realize I’m back where I started. The bright colours and prints displayed on rugs, scarves, tagines and leather goods, the silver jewelry and deep baskets of spices.

It’s beautiful, and I realize over some time that no one’s objective for the day is to harm me. Once I sit down and relax at another cafe for another mint tea, I feel quite foolish for spending my morning so paranoid. I don’t plan to walk around in a crop top with my purse unzipped in the middle of the night, but I can definitely chill. It’s also no where near as hot as I was expecting. As per usual I did very little research. I’m still in the most Northern part of Northern Africa, (I can literally see Spain across the sea) so it’s only 20 degrees, and I was expecting a hefty 30. That will come later though, as I go further South to Marrakesh.

It’s also windy as hell today, and Tangier doesn’t have the cleanest of streets, so as some men are cat calling me (uncomfortable) a large piece of cardboard comes flying with a gust of wind and smacks the back of my head (now even more uncomfortable). They all laugh. I keep walking like nothing happened. Just terrible.

I find my way back to the hostel and can finally settle into my room. It’s a 7 bed dorm but so far it’s just me. I take a little siesta and when I wake up I’m still alone. This is disappointing, because I was hoping to make some friends. I go out into the common area by reception…still just me. I can’t figure out why it’s such a ghost town!

Dinner time rolls around. I venture back outside, but this time with more of an aim. I google some places to eat in Tangier, realizing I hadn’t seen any street food on my morning and afternoon expeditions. Well, nothing major. One man was selling baguette sandwiches but that doesn’t seem super Moroccan to me…

I decide on a TripAdvisor approved restaurant and head in that direction, keeping my eyes open in case I find something more interesting. It’s entirely possible I’ll get lost, anyway.

Spoiler alert! I don’t get lost. Well, a little, but I sort myself out. No help required. The restaurant is absolutely adorable, moderately expensive for my backpacker budget, but still affordable. I order a vegetable tagine, which comes with bread, a hot blended pea dip (I make it sound awful but I swear it’s good), and some olives to start. It’s ridiculous, guys. Drop what you’re doing and go find some authentic Moroccan food somewhere. This is not a drill.
I get a free mint tea and little pasty dessert after my meal which is a fun bonus for a meal that’s 65 Mdh (conversion). Apparently free mint tea is a thing across the whole country, actually.

I vow to find cooler, cheaper, street food for future meals. It’s meant to be amazing and if it’s anything like this tagine I just devoured, I will be pleased.

Morocco: Arrival 

Opting for the early flights never seems so bad until you’re boarding an airport bus at 4am. My flight to Tangier, Morocco, doesn’t leave until 6:50, but my greatest fear in life is missing a flight so I try to get to the airport early. This is probably one of the only things in life I am ever early for.
Oh yah. Did I mention I’m going to Morocco?! I’m super super stoked. This trip will mark a couple “firsts” for me; first time in Africa, and my first time in a predominantly Muslim country. It will also be my 5th continent and the 25th country I’ve visited, just in time for my 25th birthday, which I will celebrate while I’m here! It’s all very exciting.

Living in Barcelona is anything but boring, but I’ve been craving a little adventure lately so when I found out the schools in Spain get an entire week off for Easter (or “Semana Santa”), I jumped on the opportunity to get away. I’m not exactly making bank as a teacher in Spain, so I should disclose that this wonderful trip would not have been possible without the wonderful support of my wonderful family. Pro tip: flights make the best birthday gifts. 

I’ve read (and then confirmed with the information desk) that the only way to get into the city is by taxi. I agree on a fixed price of 150Mdh (Moroccan Dirham), which is equivalent to about 15€…or $20 Canadian. I’m not sure which exchange to compare on my blog now. I’m thinking in euros, but the only person who reads this is my Mom and she uses Canadian dollars so….

Anyway. Back to the taxi. Actually, before I get to the taxi, I must state that the currency exchange in Barcelona tried to rob me damn near blind. 60 euros was only going to get me about 40 euros worth of dirham. Hell no. The woman assured me I’d never find a better rate, and I rolled my eyes. When I got to the Tanger airport they gave me 60 euros worth of dirham for my 60 euros. Imagine that. A fair exchange.

Okay so my taxi. The driver and I communicate in French which is difficult for me, mostly because I haven’t spoken it properly in years, and also because I’m trying to learn Spanish, so now I just confuse the two. He speaks mostly Arabic and claims his French is horrible but I can assure you it’s better than mine. We have a nice little chat on the way into the city, and he doesn’t try to rip me off when I arrive. He does take me to the wrong address, though, and now I’m pretty lost. I don’t want to look toooooo useless, but I also don’t want to pull out my phone in the street, so I ask someone for directions. Again, we converse in French and he points me in the right direction. Being me and having a poor sense of direction, I screw up somewhere along the line and go the wrong way. He chases me down to set me straight again, which, at first I find a little concerning. He’s just been low key following me down the road? I stay a little on guard but once we get close to my hostel he leaves me on my way and doesn’t even ask for money. I’ve read/heard you can expect to be asked for money for any sort of advice or help, and was preparing for how I’d deal with that in this moment. No need!

I’ve only been here for maybe an hour…but I already think people back home have exaggerated the danger of Morocco. The people here are lovely!

I now know I’m close to my hostel, but still not exactly where it is. I have 5 hours before I can check in, so I stop at a cafe for some wifi and to get my life together. I order a mint tea and croissant. It costs 1.20€. I love it here.

The sun is shining, there is a homeless man singing across the street, and a raggedy little cat stares me in the eyes as it takes a poop in the planter next to my table. Have I mentioned how much I love it here?